Jewish Sacred Music for High Holy Days

« previous episode | next episode »

Sunday, September 16, 2012

As the Jewish high holidays are celebrated, Kent Tritle shines light on the broad choral repertoire of that tradition. We hear works by Ernest Bloch, Samuel Adler, Yehudi Wyner and Koussevitzky, among others.

Opening this week's show is Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Yehudi Wyner's Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs). In a project to compile music of Mizrahi Jews, Lazare Saminsky transcribed the captivating theme in the 1920's. Introduced to Wyner by his father, a prominent composer of Yiddish art songs, the alluring melody had a lasting effect, influencing him into adulthood. We hear the Wellesley College Choir under Susan Davenny Wyner in a stunning performance of this work.

American composer Ernest Bloch was raised in a Jewish household, though his interest in music took precedence over religion in his youth. As the young composer matured, he began to take seriously the idea of composing works in the Judaic tradition. Before composing his monumental work, Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service), Bloch spent a year studying synagogue music and sacred texts used for Saturday morning worship. In his Sacred Service for choir, orchestra and baritone soloist, we hear the influences of folk and sacred music on his writing.

Also on this week's celebratory episode, music of Leonard Bernstein, Robert Beaser and others.


Shir Hashirim
Yehudi Wyner
Sacred Music
Wellesley College Choir
Susan Davenny Wyner, director

I think continually of those
Psalm 124
Mah Tovu
, Brother Richard Cragg, cantor
Psalm 146
Samuel Adler
A Prophecy of Peace
The Choral Music of Samuel Adler
Gloriae Dei Cantores
Elizabeth. C. Patterson, director

Sacred Service
Ernest Bloch
The Zemel Choir
London Symphony Orchestra
Geoffrey Simon, director
UK Louis Berkman, Baritone

M’chalkel Chayyim
Taste of Eternity
The Western Wind

Psalm 29
Taste of Eternity
The Western Wind

Eil Nora Alilah
Divine Granduer
The New York Concert Singers
Judith Clurman

Psalm 150
Divine Granduer
The New York Concert Singers
Judith Clurman

Psalm 131 and 133
Camerata Singers (Abraham Kaplan, Director)
New York Philharmonic

Comments [2]

Gary Ekman from Manhattan NYC

It's fascinating to hear traditional synagogue chanting interspersed with choral music like this. Throughout, the "Jewish" flavor is unmistakable, even in the parts which are purely choral. Listening to this on the morning of Yom Kippur encourages deep personal reflection, which is arguably one of the main themes of this holy day. The perfect backdrop.

Sep. 26 2012 08:14 AM
Jack Berger from Mahwah, NJ (USA)

Cantor Jacob Mendelson's piece was the only piece of music on the program to properly represent the nature of the genre that is called "Jewish Liturgy." The remaining material was to 'abstract' in that it wasn't really representative of Jewish liturgical music -- though quite beautiful in its own right.

I found these other selections too anemic relative to the robustness of the traditional Jewish liturgical repertoire. Jewish liturgical music is not a reflection of, or a derivation from, Gergorian chant. While I might go to a concert hall to hear such music, I would not welcome it, in a synagogue, as part of prayer.

Sep. 16 2012 05:58 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.